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David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)

Artist and filmmaker David Lynch discusses his early life and the events that shaped his outlook on art and the creative process.


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David Lynch takes us on an intimate journey through the formative years of his life. From his idyllic upbringing in small town America to the dark streets of Philadelphia, we follow Lynch as he traces the events that have helped to shape one of cinema's most enigmatic directors. David Lynch the Art Life infuses Lynch's own art, music and early films, shining a light into the dark corners of his unique world, giving audiences a better understanding of the man and the artist. As Lynch states "I think every time you do something, like a painting or whatever, you go with ideas and sometimes the past can conjure those ideas and color them, even if they're new ideas, the past colors them."

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Release Date:

20 April 2017 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

David Lynch The Art Life  »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$10,823, 31 March 2017, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$169,517, 16 June 2017
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs



| (some scenes)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1 / (high definition)
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Did You Know?


Funded by a Kickstarter campaign. It took several years for completion. See more »


David Lynch: When you're doing a painting or whatever... sometimes the past conjures ideas. The past colours them.
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I Have a Radio
Written and performed by David Lynch and Dean Hurley
Published by Bobkind Music Inc (ASCAP) / Team Hurley (ASCAP)
Administered by Universal Music Corp / Downtown Music Publishing
Courtesy of Sunday Best Recordings
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User Reviews

Lynch beyond film
9 November 2017 | by See all my reviews

Jon Nguyen's second documentary about the mercurial director is focused more on Lynch's formative years and as the title suggests, his engagement with the plastic arts rather than his work in film. Anyone going in expecting to see a blow- by-blow account of his filmography will be left disappointed, despite the fact the trailer might lead you to expect this: in the trailer, the titles of all of his films are flashed up, but actually, only Eraserhead is given any real screen time, marking as it does, a new phase in Lynch's creative life. 'The Art Life' is a phrase that Lynch himself uses throughout the film, and it seems to be his guiding principle in life - essentially, it's his idea of the idyllic existence, spending as much time as possible giving license to his creative urges, whether that be behind a camera or, as it seems he has always preferred, in his studio. It also involves drinking a lot of coffee and smoking a lot of cigarettes! You're left with the feeling of a remarkably creative being - his films, his painting, his music (which isn't even touched on); he's even a competent woodworker, the film reveals.

I must confess I'm not great fan of his mainly mixed-media artwork, but this film is much more about his creative process and the impulses, past and present, which drive him. There's a lot of family archive footage, both grainy home movies and stills, accompanied by Lynch's narration. He isn't a great raconteur - often trailing off in the telling of an anecdote, or seeming to have no real point to a story, beyond the memory of it - but it's absorbing nonetheless and you're left wanting more. The opening line to the film concerns the huge influence of his own past and his personal history in his films. One anecdote, about a strange event that happened in suburbia, could almost be a storyboard sequence for Blue Velvet. His account of his time in the industrial hinterland of Philadelphia makes you realize how much of what he saw around him went into Eraserhead.

The camera work in this documentary is very nicely done, and directors Nguyen and Barnes allow their subject to speak for himself - no sycophantic talking heads, just Lynch on Lynch (to recall the title of his book), which is probably the only way he would allow a film like this to be made. As you might expect, it's frustratingly oblique at times but still a fascinating insight into Lynch's early years and a fitting reflection of his life's work.

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